Tag Archives: teachers

Too much talking (or writing)

At the beginning of each new school year, I would give my students a journal in which to write during the next two years. We didn’t do a lot of journal entries, but I liked to take a survey of how they were feeling about certain events or projects without having a whole class discussion. With the journals, they wrote during class and I would read them afterwards. And, because they knew I was the only one to see these entries, I learned some interesting things about my students.

The journals were always handed out the second day of school and the first question to which I wanted a response was: How did the first day of school go for you? Almost every student, every year, would write that the teachers talked too much, they got tired of listening, they shut down and quit listening. This was due to the fact that the teachers were required to give out their rules and syllabus on the first day. I don’t know WHY that was a requirement, but it was. Being the rebel, I quit doing it after reading my students’ responses.

So, what did I do on the first day of class? I introduced myself. I told a little about the class and what we would be doing. Then I let them talk for the rest of the period. They had been away from school all summer. They wanted to talk to their friends. However, while they talked, I watched and listened. A few would engage me in conversation. They had questions about what was going on at school or how to do certain things like sign up for a sport. The next day, after they wrote in their journals, we would do a few of the record keeping tasks like hand out permission slips for all those field trips we would be taking. I would introduce marketing and talk about customer service. The third day, more paperwork, more rules. But, each day, I didn’t talk the whole period. No one wants to listen to someone talk at them for an hour.

The program in which I taught had a separate graduation ceremony for the seniors. If you have been with me on this blog for a few years, you may remember some of those events. We had a student speaker, a faculty speaker, and a member of the community speak. I had a rule for speeches: five minutes ONLY. I would tell the speakers that no one wanted to listen to them talk for more than five minutes. The students and their families appreciated this and would often complain about the BIG graduation for the whole school where the speakers talked FOREVER. Sometimes the kids would say, “Mrs. Zody, you should be in charge of graduation.” Uh, no thanks.

The other day I saw this infographic on Twitter and I had to laugh. It visually shows what I’ve been saying all these years:


Lab rats

For the past 18 years I have been part of a research group on teachers and cancer. I signed up at a meeting that was held at our school one day, not realizing how long the study would go on. There were a number of female teachers I knew who had been diagnosed with cancer. Many had died. The idea was that there might be a correlation between the profession and the disease.

Over the years there has been an assortment of questionnaires to answer, usually arriving during the summer vacation months, when teachers would have plenty of time to fill them out, asking about our lifestyle, the conditions in which we teach, the foods we eat, etc. I’ve really lost track of the whole thing except when a newsletter would arrive, filling me in on what was going on. That happened a few months ago where I saw a notice that the study was looking for participants who would be willing to provide a blood sample for the research. I emailed that I would do that and received an email saying that the study had not yet reached the San Joaquin Valley, but would be here soon. Yesterday, the phlebotomist called to set up my blood draw in a few weeks. She told me the blood will be stored at one of University of California campuses, but I forget which one. She asked about medications I take, mainly if I’m on any blood thinners, and if I had recently undergone surgery or chemotherapy. Having no health issues, we set a date and time for her to come to my house and take the blood. She also told me I would  receive $10.

Terry is also involved in a long-term health study. His is on stroke and is out of the University of Alabama. He has lost track of how long he has been in the study, but it’s over 10 years. Like mine, he gets a yearly questionnaire as well as a phone call to see how he is doing. When Terry signed on for the study, a doctor came to the house and examined him. A few weeks ago he received a phone call asking him about all sorts of ailments, surgeries, diseases, etc, to which he could answer in the negative for all of them. There was, in addition, a list of medications which he answered no to all of them. The researcher, on the other end, was a bit surprised that a man his age was on no medication and had no ailments. They didn’t ask about hearing. I know Terry doesn’t hear as well as he used to.

The way it was


A young Facebook friend of mine posted this on Monday morning:

 >>Migraine quelled, apartment cleaned, clothing laundered, props acquired, sound cues programmed, new lighting board installed, (stage light) lamps replaced, third quarter grades finalized, student transportation arranged, new unit prepped, tomorrow’s lunch concocted, copious amounts of caffeine consumed, bedtime wind-down now commencing . . . show week, here 39 7th and 8th-graders and I come!<<

 She is a fairly new teacher who has six periods of classes having given up her prep period so as to teach a theater class at the middle school that is attached to the high school where she teaches five periods of theater arts. As you can probably guess, she is very young. You need to be to keep up that pace for months on end.

Her post reminded me of when I was teaching and how jam-packed my weekends would be during the school year. Every minute was precious, and as I mentioned in my post about the inner city café and the long wait for lunch, I could not waste such time during those teaching years. If I met friends for lunch on a Saturday, I sat with one eye on my watch, just knowing that I had to leave by 1:30 due to a still long list of chores to accomplish. On Sunday mornings, if the church service ran a bit too long, I was chomping at the bit to get out the door because I had an afternoon of grading to do. I was always planning the next hour and what I would accomplish with an eye on a list of more to do when that hour was over. There was just never enough time.

Looking back, I know I did a really good job as a teacher, but I also know that I raced through life, always counting how many more days before our next break when I could breath. In reading journals from those years I see, over and over, where I am desiring time to just sit and think.

Which brings me to now, in retirement, when I can do exactly that. Or, like on Saturday, when Terry and I could take a couple of hours to have a leisurely lunch and not fret one bit about the time. Then yesterday, a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, when I attended a chamber music concert for two hours. Two glorious hours. Next Saturday I am planning to spend my morning at a garden show. Weekends are no longer a marathon of school work and household chores.


A reminder as to why I no longer teach high school

A few people still ask if I miss teaching. No, I do not, and I am seriously reminded what I don’t miss when I read blog posts like this one from Ricochet who is still teaching high school math.


Pride in a job well done; shame in messing up

The year I was in sixth grade–1963–was a water-shed year in many ways. Not only was it the year President John F Kennedy was assassinated, which is really a major memory, it was also the year my parents bought their first ever new car and remodeled the house I grew up in. The previous year had brought record prices for cotton and my father finally felt that he had money to do all those extras. My dad worked very hard and he was very proud of the excellent cotton he grew and the high prices it brought. He believed that his fields were a reflection on his character and the resulting crops a sign of his success.

But, getting back to me, 1963 was a year when I learned a skill that I have used the rest of my life, and it’s what I want to share with you, dear Reader, today. Why today? Because I read this piece of news this morning.

I was very concerned about being called “out” by my teachers. I only wanted to be noticed by the teacher for my good work, not for something I did wrong. Because of my fear of being “shamed” in class, I always worked hard and took pride in my work until one assignment in that sixth grade class. The teacher showed one to two movies and week, and she expected us to take notes on each movie, using a notebook she gave us specifically for this task. She also had a specific way in which she wanted the notes written, having drilled us previous to the first movie. When the lights went off, and the movie started, all of her instructions went right out of my head. I couldn’t get the hang of writing in the dark. It was hard to watch the movie, and then write the notes, going back and forth from screen to paper. I was totally bewildered, and went home, nearly in tears. I thought about this all night. I just knew that when I turned in my notebook the teacher would hold it up to the class and say, “Look. Delaine Kissinger does not know how to take proper notes.” I would be mortified.

So, I thought long and hard on how I could keep that from happening. I decided to practice writing, in my bedroom, with the lights turned off. When the news came on TV, I practiced taking notes on what I was hearing. I also brought my notebook home and tried to fill in some notes for the first movie. By the time the next movie was shown, I was better at the note taking, but still not good. The fear of humiliation was still there, but I kept practicing at home, and by the time we had to turn those notebooks in for a check-point, I was doing pretty well. The teacher made some comments in my notebook, giving me some tips on arranging my notes. I followed her suggestions, and by the end of the sixth grade, I knew how to take notes on movies, speeches, presentations, anything and everything. College was much easier because of this ability.

To this day, I give credit for my ability to take notes to my sixth grade teacher, Miss Pugh. Oh, and some credit to my shorthand teacher in high school, Mr. Arntz. He was another instructor whom I didn’t want to disappoint.

Where and when did that change in the schools? Why aren’t students still fearful of messing up and getting called out for doing inadequate work? Just as my dad saw the importance of high yields and excellent quality in his crops, I too saw the importance of good work and high grades in my school work.

This past week

This was the week the teachers returned to school for all those meetings. Hopefully there was some time left over for them to work in their classrooms, getting things in order for the kiddos that show up on Monday. I admit that I miss getting to see everyone as they return from their summer vacation, with tales of adventures and plans for the new year. But then we have to settle into those meetings where we are shown PowerPoint slide, one after another, of how the students did on last year’s test and how they compare to the rest of the world and how we should be doing more to get better test scores, blah, blah, blah…

I wasn't here

Instead, I went to lunch with my girlfriends. The lunch date was actually to celebrate my birthday, but that was weeks ago, and I’m not one for celebrations like that, so I figured, it was a chance to have pie for lunch. Boysenberry pie at the Chicken Pie Shop. Divine.

I was here

But, before lunch, I headed downtown, where my husband met me, and we walked the mall, checking the fountains that have been repaired and are again running. The Fulton Mall was designed with lots of fountains, but with age and lack of funding, the fountains have become dormant, with no water coursing through their pipes. It was good to see some of the flowing again. We had fun taking pictures.

At one of the fountains


Terry taking photographs of the fountain

Today I went shopping for cosmetics because Lancome was having a gift with purchase at Macy’s. I also found a pair of navy tennis shoes that were on sale for only $16 and since I had an old pair that needed to be tossed (my husband thoroughly agreed) it was the right time to buy. My hair salon also called to say that my bright red shampoo was in and I could pick up the two bottles I had ordered. Now, remember my recent rant about not buying extras? Well, there I was buying an extra bottle so I could put it in my travel bag and also because the stuff is so hard to get.

So, did I mention this is the week the teachers returned to work? I really didn’t miss it at all. And, I don’t think I’m going to miss the first day of school that happens next week. I have plans.


Clever infographic

I like this infographic. Not only is it cleverly done, but it’s got some good information. I would love to have students present their research finings in such a manner.

It’s that time of the year

And I’m not participating. I’m talking about back-to-school. Today is actually the first day of school for a neighboring school district just a few blocks to the west of me. The large urban school district for whom I taught all those years returns in another week and a half as does the state college here in town. Teachers every where are heading back to their offices and classrooms to prepare for the net onslaught.

Yesterday I had lunch with a young teacher whose friendship I made through her blog.  We learned, over the years, that we had much in common. She had another life before becoming a teacher, similar to me; she is a fairly new teacher, just up the highway a piece, and somehow we discovered that she and my son-in-law had grown up together.  She likes to write, and she likes to use technology in her classroom. Although young enough to be my daughter, we had a good time chatting about teaching, students, hair, and all the other stuff that makes up a life. She returns to school tomorrow. I hope she has a great year. She deserves it.

As do so many of my teacher friends who are working so hard to make this teaching thing  a success for their students. They have started to prepare for those students even while the summer heat lingers and the days are still long. My old teaching buddy is coming by on Friday to get a brief lesson on PhotoShop as she will this year teach one period of multimedia, a class I taught the last two years of my career. It’s all about photography, document layout, web design, and video. Lots of equipment involved. More software than I care to remember. Juggling so many projects, students, and flash drives!

My last day in the multimedia classroom.

A wish for my dear teaching buddies

I know how hard you work. I know how much you give of yourself. I know the beatings you take, emotionally and physically. You give and you give. This summer I wish for you to unplug, regain perspective, nurture yourself, and slow down into stillness

A note to make my heart sing

I received this wonderful note today. It made my heart sing:

Oh Mrs. Zody, how I miss you dearly. I am doing quite nicely. Working at Michaels Arts and Crafts while pursuing my AA in Journalism. You always told us that one day we would appreciate all the things you were teaching us early on, and I must say you were so right. I know how to type and my indesign and photoshop experience is already coming into play. You prepared us very well, therefore the transition into college was smooth. So thank you for that. 🙂 I hope you are doing well too.

It makes me so glad to hear from my students and to know they are doing well out there in that big world.